Which ingredients should you avoid during pregnancy? Renowned facialist Abigail James has your ultimate guide to skincare for mums-to-be

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Although some women breeze through pregnancy, enjoying a ‘pregnancy glow’, others’ experience is quite the opposite. About 70 per cent develop melasma or chloasma – dark spots on the face and arms known as the ‘mask of pregnancy’. This disappears in the months following birth. Your acne and eczema may get worse while pregnant, while psoriasis may improve.

Changes to your skin during pregnancy

  • Progesterone can increase as much as 60 per cent, which increases the amount of fat stored by the body.
  • Oestrogen can increase by as much as 30 per cent.
  • The volume of blood can almost double, which explains the ‘healthy glow’


This occurs as a result of an increase in the pigment-stimulating hormones during pregnancy. It develops as patches on the cheeks, upper lip, chin and forehead and is often genetic (more than 30 per cent of people will have a family history of melasma).

The second contributing factor is sun exposure. It fades after pregnancy but can reoccur if you have repeated or extensive sun exposure or if you become pregnant again. The best solution is to wear a high SPF on a daily basis.

Pregnancy breakouts

With hormones in abundance and anxiety levels high, skin can respond with hormonal breakouts, especially around the chin and jawline.

Extreme sensitivity/rosacea

Skin can become more sensitive during pregnancy, particularly to certain products, temperature and sun exposure. It’s thought that this is our body’s way of protecting itself and the foetus from infection and disease. It also explains why we go off certain smells and foods that we previously enjoyed. As blood volume increases, it’s no wonder we feel like we have an internal radiator!

Product ingredients to avoid

If your skincare products contain any of the following you should seek medical advice before using them:

  • Vitamin A/retinol – they speed up cell turnover but also make the skin much more prone to sun damage and developing pigmentation. There have also been studies that link retinol-based products and birth/child defects, so continue to avoid vitamin A products whilst breastfeeding.
  • Phthalates/formaldehyde/toluene – these chemicals are often found in perfume and nail polishes. Research is being carried out to assess a possible link with birth defects.
  • Ammonia – often found in hair dyes, it has carcinogenic properties, so steer clear.
  • Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) – found in self-tanning products. Inhalation can be harmful to both mother and foetus.

Your essential pregnancy skincare routine

  • Cleanse twice daily before applying a serum and moisturiser.
  • Gentle exfoliation weekly.
  • High SPF daily.
  • Mask once weekly for a specific skin issue, such as calming, sensitivity, flushing or breakouts.

A guide to essential oils in pregnancy


  • Basil – encourages menstruation.
  • Chamomile blue – encourages menstruation.
  • Cypress – acts as a diuretic and has a regulating effect on the menstrual cycle.
  • Jasmine – can stimulate uterine contractions.
  • Juniper berry – it’s a diuretic.
  • Rosemary – it’s highly stimulating.


  • Frankincense – it’s uplifting and deepens breathing.
  • Geranium – hormone balancing, good for stress-related conditions. A sedative, yet uplifting to the nervous system.
  • Ginger – amazing for combating nausea.
  • Mandarin – great for relieving stress and nervous tension. Also excellent for treating stretch marks when mixed with a carrier plant oil.
  • Neroli – a sedative, good for anxiety and depression.

This is an extract taken from  Love Your Skin  by Abigail James, £20, Published by Kyle Books, Photography by Jenni Hare

Find out more about Abigail James on her  website  and follow her on Instagram  here